Selling Hope by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Selling Hope is Kristin O'Donnell Tubb's second novel, published in 2010. When I met Tubb a few weeks ago at Parnassus Books (see here for more), I chose to bring this one home because her latest book, The 13th Sign, tended just a little "older" than my 9-year-old, and I wanted one she could pick up if she chose. Selling Hope focuses on Hope McDaniels, the daughter of a magician on the vaudeville circuit in 1910. Hope is her dad's assistant in the act and is more than a little ready to be off the circuit and settled somewhere permanently. She misses her mom, who (no spoiler) has passed away. She is also somewhat preoccupied (as is the rest of the country) with the news that Halley's Comet is going to pass through the Earth's atmosphere in a few weeks. Each chapter, in fact, is dated (the first is called "May 1, 1910 - Seventeen Days till the End of the World,") so the book itself counts down to the big event much as everyone was doing at the time.

To fund her plan to leave the circuit, Hope concocts an unusual and effective sales ploy, one which earns her money, makes her a friend out of the soon-to-be-famous Buster Keaton, and teaches her a great deal about herself and what she finds most important Along the way, the book raises some good questions and has some great moments like this one early on:
Standing onstage was akin to standing in a box of sun: bright, hot, and full of squint and sweat. (10) 
and this passage a few pages later about her Whitman and Thoreau quoting father:
He gestured to the seat opposite him and smiled such a warm smile, my cold thoughts about his getting fired melted a bit, and I was afraid they might pour right out of my mouth and puddle on the floor between us. (19)
Besides the good lines, there is also solid research backing this book, and real headlines from newspapers of the time punctuate each chapter. Though it used some gimmicks to get us there, the book actually taught me a lot about an event and a culture I knew little about before. Overall, it was a fun and interesting read, and I'm glad to have been introduced to Tubb and her work. She agreed to answer a few questions for the blog, so look for our conversation tomorrow.

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